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Audit of Petro-Canada Norge AS – preparations for drilling exploration well 34/4-11

The Petroleum Safety Authority Norway (PSA) has conducted an audit of Petro-Canada Norge AS' preparations for exploration drilling on the Norwegian shelf. The audit did not identify any nonconformities in relation to regulatory requirements, but several improvement items were noted.

The purpose of the activity was to audit Petro-Canada Norge AS' (Petro-Canada's) preparations for drilling exploration well 34/4-11 in production licence 375.

The PSA carried out the audit in meetings with the company and supplier representatives in PCN’s offices on 23 September 2009. In this meeting, the company presented its activities in connection with the preparations for drilling the 34/4-11 well with the mobile facility Songa Delta.

Songa Delta (Source: Songa Offshore)
Songa Delta (Source: Songa Offshore)

Petro-Canada has now merged with the Canadian company Suncor Energy. The company will be drilling its first well in the fall of 2009, and plans to drill its next well in 2010.

This audit activity is a follow-up of previous activities aimed at the company Petro-Canada and its preparations for its first well on the Norwegian continental shelf.

The objective of the activity was to verify that Petro-Canada has carried out the necessary preparations to safeguard health, safety and the environment in its preparations for drilling well 34/4-11.

In this audit, the PSA assigned priority to evaluating whether Petro-Canada's management system is satisfactory in connection with its application for consent to carry out this activity. The competence of the company's staff and the capacity of the company and the suppliers are among the most important factors as regards managing risk and preparedness elements. We identified factors relating to the following items:

  • Organisation and competence
  • Communication in emergency preparedness situations
  • Quality and scope of risk assessments performed
  • Operations close to high pressure and high temperature conditions
  • Cooperation between the exploration drilling players in high pressure and high temperature wells
  • Description of helicopter services provided in the application for consent

It was also noted that transfer of experience and continuity were in accordance with the established practice between the companies in relation to use of the mobile drilling facility Songa Delta.

It was stated that the cooperation functioned as expected and that there was a particularly close cooperation with the other licensees in the production licence because the well was considered to be demanding. In this connection, modifications were carried out on the BOP systems on the facility in advance of the activities.

At the same time, some challenges in relation to maintenance of the facility were pointed out, in an HSE context. This audit activity also emphasised the challenges that follow from specific well data. The pore pressure forecast for the reservoir section in this well is very close to high pressure and high temperature conditions, with the challenges this entails for the operator and the supplier companies.

No nonconformities
The PSA did not note any nonconformities in relation to regulatory requirements in this audit.

However, several items with room for improvement were identified. These include organisation and competence, emergency preparedness, risk assessment, high pressure and high temperature conditions, operator cooperation, helicopter services and maintenance.

  • Organisation and competence: There is an improvement potential in relation to the composition and number of people in Petro-Canada's drilling department, viewed in relation to the company's management of the activity and knowledge of framework conditions, including standards, that are used on the Norwegian shelf.
  • Second and third line emergency response organisation: There is a need for clarification of communication between the operator and the authorities in notification and emergency response situations.
  • Risk assessment: There is potential for improvement in connection with conducting risk assessments prior to the drilling activities
  • High pressure and high temperature conditions (HPHT): There is potential for improvement in connection with the application for consent's description of the need to follow up third party equipment in a potential test phase.
  • Operator cooperation: There was potential for improvement in relation to the composition of the HPHT expertise in cooperation with other operating companies.
  • Helicopter services: It emerged during the audit activity that the application for consent contained information about the helicopter services that was not correct.
  • Maintenance of the drilling facility: It was stated that no activities had been carried out to safeguard the supervisory duty in relation to proven deficiencies in the drilling contractor's maintenance system. This affects the operator's independent responsibility for activities in the rig acceptance process, also when acceptance of mobile drilling facilities is carried out in cooperation with other companies.